Saturday, July 14, 2012


For those of you who followed my blog in the past, my apologies for straying away from all the fun we have had in our book club- and also the recipes for deliciousness to go with each book...I have spent the last year battling breast cancer, but everything looks great so I am back!
Instead of going back years and years, and trying to remember all the details of each book club (my memory is not as good as it once was) I am going to begin with last month (June 2012).
Debbie hosted the book "PICKING COTTON" by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, and Ronald Cotton.
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption


Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

Heavy topic, but a great book to discuss. Debbie decorated the tables with boxes of evidence, and had
test tubes of "blood" tied to each napkin with raffia. ( I told you our book club goes all out !!)

Debbie served a delicious barbeque dinner- barbeque pork, brunswick stew, mexican cornbread and coleslaw....
As the cohostess, I made the dessert. It was a recipe I had in my files since the 70's called Cotton Pickin' Cake (very appropriate you would say).

1 box yellow cake mix
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges with juice
4 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil ( I use Wesson)

1 (16 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3.4 oz) pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
2 (8 oz) containers Cool Whip or
       1 quart heavy cream whipped and sweetened
        with 1 cup sugar ( we like things sweet in the South)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 inch round pans. Mix together the 4 cake ingredients. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until done. Cool the layers on wire racks.
   Mix the drained pineapple with the dry pudding mix and fold this into the Cool Whip. Fill and frost the cooled cake layers. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This is a good cake to make a day ahead so the flavors blend.

Look for my next post in August- don't know yet what book Lisa has chosen for us to read but sure it will be a winner!

Click here for a larger view.

Friday, March 4, 2011

February 2011 Reading List

So many good books- so little time! This month I read:
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: Book CoverI read this book in high school, but decided to re-read it...don't misunderstand, I read this over the course of several months but finished it in February. It is a very long, very intellectual, very thoughtful book that can tax your brain if you let it! Put this on your" must read before I die" answers the often asked question- "Who is John Galt?"

The year 2005 marks Ayn Rand’s Centennial Year. The astounding story of a man that said that he would stop the motor of the world—and did. Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged is unlike any other book you have ever read. “A writer of great power. She has a subtle and ingenious mind and the capacity of writing brilliantly, beautifully, bitterly.”—The New York Times

I read a great memoir by Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle) about her grandmother- called Half Broke Horses.
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls: Book Cover
Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls’s no-nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town—riding five hundred miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.
Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds—against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn’t fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. (Barnes and Noble)

If you read this, you will understand that we women of today have NOTHING to complain about!!

Another great book for February was Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. This was recommended to me by my daughter-in-law, Suzanne, who reads almost as much as I do! And it did not disappoint- thanks, Suzanne...
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua: Book Cover


An awe-inspiring, often hilarious, and unerringly honest story of one mother's exercise in extreme parenting, revealing the rewards-and the costs-of raising her children the Chinese way.
All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way-the Chinese way-and the remarkable results her choice inspires.
Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin
The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.
Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene:
"According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:
1. Oh my God, you're just getting worse and worse.
2. I'm going to count to three, then I want musicality.
3. If the next time's not PERFECT, I'm going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!"
But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices-the exacting attention spent studying her daughters' performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons-the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting- and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another. (Barnes and Noble)

As a piano teacher, I loved this book- funny but scary this please!!

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor was a wonderful book about mother/daughter relationships...loved it...
Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd: Book Cover
The New York Times bestselling memoir of pilgrimage and metamorphosis by the author of The Secret Life of Bees and her daughter.

And finally, I finished up February with Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. Just an average read, but suspenseful...
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin: Book Cover
A powerful and resonant novel from Tom Franklin—critically acclaimed author of Smonk and Hell at the BreechCrooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells the riveting story of two boyhood friends, torn apart by circumstance, who are brought together again by a terrible crime in a small Mississippi town. An extraordinary novel that seamlessly blends elements of crime and Southern literary fiction, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a must for readers of Larry Brown, Pete Dexter, Ron Rash, and Dennis Lehane. (Barnes and Noble)

So ends February reading, on to March...hope this gives you some good ideas for your Kindle or Nook...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Dirty Girls Social Club

First, just let me say that this is not the other name of our book club! With that said, the book was entertaining...
Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez: Book Cover
The New York Times bestselling novel that is a sensational debut about six friends—each one an unforgettable Latina woman in her late '20s—and the complications and triumphs in their lives.

Alisa and Margie fed us with Southwestern fare- the highlight of which was the Southwestern grilled chicken...

Southwestern Grilled Chicken

2 cups buttermilk
1 lime, zested and juiced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric ( I was just reading on Dr. Andrew Weil's website that all these spices are SO good for you!!)
Tabasco hot sauce, to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts
Canola oil

Whisk together the buttermilk, lime zest and juice, garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric, hot sauce, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Pour this into a large Ziploc plastic bag, add the chicken, seal the bag and refrigerate. Marinate up to 4 hours.
Preheat grill or grill pan. Remove chicken and pat dry. Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown and cooked through.
Roxanne, Lisa, Vicki and Margie

I will finish up year 3 next time with Gone for Good and Memoirs of a Geisha...until then...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

January 2011 Reading List

As I look back over the first years of Dinner and a Book Book Club (est. 2001), I know that I am reviewing some older books, some you might have already read. So I decided to occasionally share with you the books I'm reading currently- for whatever it is worth.
This month I read our January book club selection, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Since this book will appear in my blog sometime in the future, I won't say much other than it was a book that I could not put down. Highly recommended!
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: Book Cover
Another unbelievable book I read this month was Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese- I probably will pick this for my next book club so only know that it was very powerful and I loved it...
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: Book Cover
An okay book I read was A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff- if you like vintage clothes and an easy read, pick this...
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff: Book Cover
I also read Jaye's choice for February 2011, Brava, Valentine by Adiana Trigiani- a good book to read around Valentine's Day even though Valentine is the name of the main character, not the holiday.
Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani: Book Cover

Hope this inspires you to pick up one of these books and READ!! Until next time...

The Secret Life Of Bees

In August of 2003, Debbie M and Jeanne hosted our book club with a bang - or I guess I should say a buzz- with The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  Tables were covered with brown paper , and bees were stenciled around each plate (by our own Martha Stewart- Debbie M). The centerpieces were glass bee catchers. Debbie's grandfather also loaned her 2 of his beehives, and Jeanne donned the beekeeper protective outfit and demonstrated how to care for the bees!! Glad it was not me as co hostess this month, cause I am ALLERGIC to bees!! Jars of Black Madonna honey were also at each place setting for favors.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Book Cover
"The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit, and I mean whole new orbit. Looking back on it now, I want to say the bees were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary, setting events in motion I could never have guessed." So begins the story of Lily Melissa Owens, a plucky girl, rich in humor despite heart wrenching circumstances. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, her entire life has been shaped around one devastating, though blurred, memory- the afternoon her mother was killed. Four at the time, she remembers innocently picking up the gun. And, she has her father's eyewitness account of the gun firing. People remind her it was an accident, yet she's inhabited by a torturous guilt. Lily's only real companion is Rosaleen, a tender, but fierce-hearted black woman who cooks, cleans and acts as her "stand-in mother."
South Carolina in 1964 is a place and time of seething racial divides. When violence explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is desperate, not only to save Rosaleen, but to flee a life she can no longer endure. Calling upon her colorful wits and uncommon daring, she breaks Rosaleen out of jail and the two of them take off, runaway-fugitives conjoined in an escape that quickly turns into Lily's quest for the truth about her mother's life.
Following a trail left ten years earlier, Lily and Rosaleen end up in the home of three bee-keeping sisters. No ordinary women, the sisters revere a Black Madonna and tend a unique brand of female spirituality that reaches back to the time of slavery. As Lily's life becomes deeply entwined with theirs, she is irrevocably altered. In a mesmerizing world of bees and honey, amid the strength and power of wise women, Lily journeys through painful secrets and shattering betrayals, finding her way to the single thing her heart longs for most. (Barnes and Noble)

The menu was grilled honey-marinated pork tenderloin, Lisa's fried okra, fresh sliced tomatoes, olive and tomato bread, and honey cakes for dessert. Fabulous summer meal!

Debbie's Honey Marinated Pork Tenderloin

2 (3/4 pound) pork tenderloins
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp honey
2 tsp dark sesame oil

Make a lengthwise cut down center of each tenderloin to within 1/4 inch of opposite side- press to open.
Combine soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a shallow dish- add tenderloins. Cover and chill 3 hours, turning occasionally.
Stir together brown sugar, honey and sesame oil.
Grill tenderloins, covered with grill lid, over medium high heat 20 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees in thickest part of meat. While cooking, turn occasionally and baste with honey mixture.

The door prize was assorted Burt's Bees products, of course...

Just looking at this picture makes my skin crawl, but I do love honey...

Look for The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez next, and no- it isn't the other name for our Book Club...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons

Yes, there is a book with this title- I didn't make it up. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik was Joanne's choice for June, 2004. (Our group of housewives can get angry but we never eat bon bons at the same time...)
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik: Book Cover


The women of Freesia Court are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together—the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline. Holding on through forty eventful years, there’s Faith, a lonely mother of twins who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that with good posture and an attitude you can get away with anything; Merit, the shy doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a wise woman with a wonderful laugh who knows the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, a tiny spitfire of a woman who isn’t afraid to look trouble straight in the eye.
This stalwart group of friends depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, of children and grandchildren, of bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.
(Barnes and Noble)

I can tell you that our book club doesn't resemble in ANY WAY this book club that we read about, but it was a good read. Joanne and Debbie made Bon Bon trees for each of us as decoration and party favors. Flower book marks were also at each of our place settings. The menu was shrimp cocktail, fruit and dip, salami-wrapped breadsticks, and that was just the appetizer! Then we had a delicious linguine with clam sauce, cheese bread and a mixed greens and strawberry salad. For dessert, Debbie brought us a delicious strawberry cake all the way from Alabama- we were stuffed but happy that night...

Joanne's Linguine with Clam Sauce

Saute some garlic, onion, celery and carrots in a half stick of butter. Then add a can of chopped clams and a can of chicken broth and cook together. Add 3 Tbsp of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Add 1 can of Progresso White Clam Sauce and heat. Serve with cooked linguine and lots of Romano cheese (The Romano cheese is the key!)

Joanne's Mixed Green and Strawberry Salad

1 pound mixed greens
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1//2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper

Whisk all together very well, until sugar dissolves. Serve over salad.

The door prize was a hat box filled with goodies- photo album ,wine glass, Pig Out cookbook, etc.

Cartoon of Two Women Fighting in a Living RoomThis is a picture of us after we have disagreed on a point in the book we were discussing...

The next few blogs will be finishing out our third year as a book club, with such selections as Gone for Good (Harlan Coben), The Dirty Girls Social Club (Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez), The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) and Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden). Stay tuned...

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Virgin Blue

Susan chose the book, The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, for March 2004.

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier: Book Cover


The compelling story of two women, born four centuries apart, and the ancestral legacy that binds them. Ella Turner does her best to fit in to the small, close-knit community of Lisle-sur-Tarn. She even changes her name back to Tournier, and learns French. In vain. Isolated and lonely, she is drawn to investigate her Tournier ancestry, which leads to her encounter with the town's wolfish librarian. Isabelle du Moulin, known as Le Rousse due to her fiery red hair, is tormented and shunned in the village -- suspected of witchcraft and reviled for her association with the Virgin Mary. Falling pregnant, she is forced to marry into the ruling family: the Tourniers. Tormentor becomes husband, and a shocking fate awaits her. Plagued by the color blue, Ella is haunted by parallels with the past, and by her recurring dream. Then one morning she wakes up to discover that her hair is turning inexplicably red...( Barnes and Noble)

We already read The Girl with the Pearl Earring by the same author and loved her works of historical fiction. This one did not quite measure up as I remember, but still a good read for a rainy day.

Susan and Lisa did a beautiful fondue party for us, including an appetizer of cheese fondue (my favorite) plus lots of shrimp, beef, and chicken to cook in the fondue pot. The only problem we had is the meat falling off our forks (we were obviously not fondue professionals) and burning up in the oil before we could dig it out...and of course the tables were decorated in everything blue, from the tablecloths to the candles to the flowers.

My Favorite Cheese Fondue

1-1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1/2 pound Swiss (emmenthal) cheese, shredded
1/2 pound gruyere cheese, shredded
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp dry mustard
Freshly ground nutmeg and pepper to taste
1 baguette, cut into bite- sized cubes

In a heavy saucepan, warm 1 cup wine until bubbles form and slowly rise to surface, about 6 minutes. In a bowl, mix 2 cheeses, cornstarch, and mustard. Add cheese mixture, a handful at a time, to hot wine, stirring until it is smoothly melted and beginning to bubble. Sprinkle with nutmeg and pepper.
Pour into your fondue pan (I like the electric kind) and adjust heat so fondue bubbles very slowly.
Spear bread cubes and swirl in fondue. If fondue gets too thick, add more heated wine. YUMMY!

Stock Photo - swiss cheese fondue. 
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You would think, knowing our book club, that we would have invited some virgins to attend- but
the only special activity I remember from that book club is that Debbie H had purchased some lifesize rubber rats and hidden them in Susan's cabinets- scary moments for all!! There must have been something about rats in the book, but I read it so long ago I don't remember...let me know if you read it and can figure out why we had hidden rubber rats in the kitchen...yuk!!!!

Look for the next book, Angry Housewives Eating BonBons, and I will try to post pictures of us in one of our fights eating bonbons...not that we fight among ourselves very often...well, we are kind of like sisters...